(Picture: Italian IED trainers in Afghanistan, August 2017, filed pic. Source: Italian army’s official website)
by Alessandro Pagano Dritto (Twitter: @paganodritto)
[January 6th, 2018 – Italy] Italy is dealing with Sirte’s demining, an official document the Italian government sent to the Parliament last December 28th, 2017, reveals.
“In May 2017, President [Fayez] Serraj made a further request to our government over supporting the Libyan personnel engaged with demining Sirte and its surroundings in order to help the population to come back quickly and the normality to be restored. Training activities in order to develop the Libyans’ capabilities over demining and recovery of civilian areas have been therefore set up in the framework of the Hyppocrates Operation in Misrata […].
Over that, a C-IED training activity in favour of 21 units from the Libyan military and security forces began on October 2nd, 2017″ (p. 71)
C-IED means Countering Improvided Explosive Devices and the Italian Army has a C-IED Excellence Centre.
Though this seems to be the first official statement about Italy engaging with the demining of Sirte, rumors have spread for some time. On August 2016, during the battle of Sirte between Bunyan al Marsous and the Islamic State, La Repubblica‘s journalist Vincenzo Nigro quoted some anonymous Libyan military sources as saying: “we know your [Italian] soldiers have come in order to train us over removing the mines, along with equipments and protections for the guys”.
The following day, on August 11th, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mario Giro confirmed Italian deminers were in Libya near Sirte while on tv.
Actually, in July 2016 Italy’s Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti had already referred to a request for demining from Libya while interviewed by Il Messaggero‘s journalist Marco Ventura and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni – now Prime Minister – said the following September Italy had allocated 500.000 euros over Sirte’s demining.
Yet, nothing official and detailing had never appeared over demining and training until late December 2017.
In August 2016 press reported of a secret official document admitting the unofficial Italian presence in Libya; the very first official mission – Hyppocrates – came in Misrata just in fall 2016 as a military hospital, just few months before the end of the battle. In early 2017 Hyppocrates was extended up to December 2017 and now the government has sent to the Parliament the new mandate for all Italy’s military missions abroad: Libya among them.
When the government proposed to extend Hyppocrates in January 2017, the official document made no open reference to demining or training activities; yet stated, back then:
“this support will be granted over 2017, remaining available to consider any further request of assistance from the Libyan authorities in order to come to the stabilization and pacification of the Country” (p. 13)
No reference had been made to demining activities even in a rare Italian reportage from the mission in Misrata Corriere della Sera published on October 8th, 2017, though probably written earlier in mid September that year.
Yet, a further, little, evidence of Italy dealing with demining may be found in an official statement by the Italian army stating, last December 21st, that the 3rd Regiment Bersaglieri of the Sassari Brigade – leading the mission in Misrata since early that month – had trained with units from the Italian C-IED Centre.
[Read about the 3rd Regiment of the Sassari Brigade taking the lead of the mission in Misrata on Between Libya And Italy]